Home » Existentialism » Please turn over… there’s a crisis at Christmas

Please turn over… there’s a crisis at Christmas

Hi everyone.

Most of what passes for today’s weekly BogPo Post has been pasted over on my Pages, under 3,000 Words or Less. Except, it’s more.

It’s been put there because it’s a very long essay entitled Guerrillas in the Mist, seeking to discover the root causes of the past week’s appalling events.

As always, it is a work in progress. It’s good stuff, but you can read this instead.

Actual last week’s bogl:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has confessed that he has been wavering spiritually in the face of the attack on Paris. I wanted to say this to him:

My dear Lord Archbishop

I was sorry to hear of your momentary crisis of faith in the wake of the atrocious acts in Paris 10 days ago.

I can only express the hope that you have similar misgivings as to the whereabouts of God on the occasions of the numerous other barbarities carried out in His name, elsewhere in the world.

For what it is worth, after a lifetime of contemplation I have come to the conclusion that, as God is a purely human construct, He has no agency in the world other than through the collective desires and actions of human beings. You wonder where He was present?

I can only tell you that He was there, pulling the trigger repeatedly, dispassionately; detonating His suicide vest to show His disillusion and despair – His hope for a better life; here, dying in a hail of bullets, protecting His mates; there, responding with skill and bravery in hospitals and on the streets; there, in all of suffering Humanity, because we put Him there.

Where else could you imagine He was?

For our Prime Minister to explain the Paris outrage as the act of an ‘evil death-cult’ is puerile, pathetic and unhelpful to the formation of a coherent political response; other than a childish lashing-out. The Manichean heresy is the basis of a worldview every bit as medieval as that rudimentary theology of vengeance promulgated by the dimmest village mullah.

Of course there are explicable political and historical reasons for terrorism. Let’s stop fooling ourselves that these are just random acts of evil. There is no need to evoke supernatural forces!

One such reason is the quest for the perfect society. I think if you cut open any of the teenage baboons heading for Syria to join the evil death-cult, you will find their desire is not ‘to do evil’; you will not find ‘evil’ written through them like a stick of rock. But you will find the word ‘Utopia’.

When such idealistic aspirations on the part of self-identifying minorities come up against the mighty disapproval of imperfect States; when disillusion overwhelms them and moral argument is exhausted; when there are centuries of unresolved pain, what else should we expect of people other than that they will organise, strike from the shadows, sow fear and confusion in the midst of the oppressor, using whatever means come to hand – even their own nakedness?

Have people not been doing that since Biblical times?

We do not condone mass murder, in its futility; but should we not at least try to understand why some people are prepared in extremis to resort to it, and tackle the root causes rather than simply responding in kind, tenfold, against (and otherwise in the holy name of) some abstract principle that cannot be bombed out of existence? When has violence ever not begotten more violence?

And have you noticed that God is somehow with Us, while the Devil is always in the Other? And how that is mysteriously true for both sides?

It is sheer idiocy, I know, but self-righteousness invariably overcomes reason. That is why wars start, millions die.

With respect, I think it is perhaps the job of the Church now to challenge the fundamentals, not to seek comfort in them.

They do nobody any good in the end.


Crisis at Christmas

Speaking of turning-over, I’ve had a serious-looking letter from the homeless charity Crisis at Christmas, asking for a donation.

The author, an attractive-looking ‘Senior Volunteer’ (no, don’t even go there, I’m seriously past it) , explains that the sum of £22.29 will cover making a place available to a homeless person over the holiday period, getting them off the chilly streets and helping to feed and shelter them a while.

It’s a worthwhile cause and a charity whose name and reputation can be trusted.

But why exactly £22.29?

The more assiduous readers of this, muh bogl, will kno’ that I used to scratch a bare living as a copywriter in advertising agencies.

I worked for many charities, constructing fundraising campaigns just like this one, using ‘junk mail’ tactics – although I always argued that, if it’s not thrown away immediately, it isn’t junk. Frequently, I was the real creative powerhouse behind the invented names of the supposed authors of the letters.

One of the basic principles I was taught by charity marketers was: never ask for an open donation: always specify an amount, or offer a ‘shopping list’ with a range of specific amounts to meet different objectives. In other words, we were commoditising solutions to problems: ‘For this price, we can make this much of your guilt go away…’.

Another was, never ask for a round-number donation: £10 or £20 or £100. Always make it an odd-number: £9.63, £103.47 – whatever. It sounds like you’re not just fishing for cash, but that the cost of the solution to the problem described in the letter has been carefully calculated and it is therefore a serious request.

Precise pricing helps too, to create more of a sense of direct connection with the anonymous beneficiary of your aid. You believe you know exactly how much of your goodwill they are benefitting from. You don’t, of course, but it feels more secure.

It’s marketing psychology, and it works. Not because the donor is necessarily going to write a cheque for the requested amount: while many may do just that, others will make probably a lesser (though still useful) or maybe even a greater donation of a self-selected sum, where they might not otherwise have considered donating at all. (A recent online appeal took my £10 and then offered me the opportunity to feel even better by DOUBLING it, using a Button they had thoughtfully provided! The more blatant the ask, the more you rake in.)

The other objective is, of course, to do with profiling and testing.

I will have received the version of the letter asking for £22.29. Other demographic groups (usually identified by postcode) will have received different letters, asking for different amounts, to see which ones ‘pull’ best.

Postcode areas analysed in the past as ‘AB’, the professional class – or areas that have been particularly responsive to past mailing campaigns – will be asked for more: sometimes, a lot more. Asking for larger donations is another psychological ploy, it flatters the punters into thinking that you think they can afford more, enhancing their self-esteem. (You never ask very rich people for a donation, you target them especially to get them involved in fundraising themselves. The rich love that, it tickles their philanthropy G-spot without costing them anything.)

Collating and analysing all the responses that come back gives an average donation amount and the numbers and types of donors  found in each postcode area, each market sector – other cross-tests will have been done using different letter wordings and designs, even different ‘trigger’ colours, to see what works best – enabling the marketer to target prospective donors quite accurately for future appeals.

Honest, it’s dead scientific.

Clearly as someone now in only the C2 bracket myself, postcodewise, £22.29 puts me pretty low down the social pecking order, and quite right too – I’m an Old Age Pensioner, a C2D as we used to call them.

So here I am, teetering on the verge of sending C-at-C ten quid, because although I live on a very small income I do feel privileged to have a roof over my head, and enough money for a single man to drink wine at £7.99 a bottle; while ‘they’ are probably an unemployable 40-something ex-Afghan-theatre grunt suffering from untreated PTSD, drinking cut-price supermarket cider in a shop doorway.

Only, I’ve been left contemplating my battered chequebook, wondering why, and with a nagging sense of unease that, Crisis at Christmas feels it has to use such blatantly manipulative sales tactics on me?

That £22.29 letter has left me feeling that I’m just a postcode to them; a number on a computer. It’s destroyed whatever sense of human fellowship their expensive London advertising agency might otherwise have created between me and the anonymous victim, who might just have been grateful for my donation.

Oh, poop.

Pour another glass. I hope I haven’t spoiled anyone’s Christmas. Go on, give till it hurts, you smug bastards.



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